Doug Ford says school will not resume on May 4, promises to fight COVID-19 spread in long-term care homes

 

At an April 14 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed that schools will not be reopening on May 4, but said the school year is not yet cancelled. 

Ford also said that the province is "dealing with wildfire at long-term care homes" and will redeploy health care resources to help fight the spread of COVID-19 in homes and facilities that house Ontario's most vulnerable residents.

The premier also confirmed that that government will extend Ontario's state of emergency to May 12.

He said that tomorrow, the province will formally launch an enhanced action plan to fight COVID-19 spread in long-term care facilities.

"The sad truth is, our long-term care homes are turning into the frontline in the fight against this virus. My top priority is getting staff and resources to this front," Ford said, adding that the province will "spare no expense" to protect vulnerable residents.

Ford's announcement comes one day after Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, said the spread of the virus in care homes has been at the root of half of the more than 700 deaths across the country.

“The number of deaths will increase,” Tam said Monday at a media briefing in Ottawa.

At the press conference, Ford said that because the much-feared COVID-19 surge is not happening in hospitals, the province can redeploy health care teams to long-term care homes when there is a serious outbreak.   

"We have not seen the surge in our hospitals that we were so worried about. We have the capacity in the health sector," he said. 

"I want resources redeployed to the homes when there's a serious outbreak."

On its COVID-19 website (which was last updated on April 13), the province says 769 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with 255 being treated in intensive care units. The website says 199 patients are currently using ventilators.

Earlier projections suggested that the province would be seeing a much higher number of COVID patients in ICUs at this point in the outbreak. 

At the press conference, Ford also said he will issue a new emergency order tonight mandating that long-term care workers can only work in one home.

Health Minister Christine Elliot told reporters that the new policy will stop workers—many of whom work in multiple homes—from unknowingly carrying the virus from one location to another.

Elliot said the province will have enough staff to manage demand, as additional health care workers (including medical students, retirees and foreign-trained medical staff) are being matched with health and long-term care facilities. 

Ford said that the province is immediately directing funding to cover additional staffing at affected homes and is prepared to spend more as required.

He also said the government will enhance testing at long-term care facilities, adding that new infection controls are being put in place immediately at high-risk homes. 

When asked about school closures, Ford said that while the school year has not yet been cancelled, he can confirm that students will not be returning to class on May 4. 

Ford said that Education Minister Stephen Lecce will provide an update in the coming days.

With files from The Canadian Press

Your Comments